SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

2007 Year In Review

Plane Crashes, Fires Top 2007 Stories
By Dave Kiffer


January 03, 2008
Thursday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska - 2007 was a year in which tragedies struck during the summer visitor season and again right before Christmas.

In the summer, two tragedies struck weeks apart and resulted in 11 people dying in two float plane crashes.

jpg Taquan Dehavilland Beaver crashed

A Taquan Dehavilland Beaver crashed in Misty Fjords on July 24, 2007
Photograph courtesy Alaska State Troopers

The Christmas tragedy involved a cooking fire that sent deadly smoke into upstairs bedrooms of a small house killing four children of the Credito family.

11 Die In Plane Crashes

2007 was one of the deadliest years in local flight seeing history.

First, a Taquan Dehavilland Beaver crashed in Misty Fjords on July 24, killing the pilot, Joseph Campbell, 56, and two married couples who were passengers on the Sun Princess: William F. Eddy and Jeanne J. Eddy, both 59, of Jacksonville, Fla., and Paul J. McManus, 60, and his wife, Marianne M. McManus, 56, of Massachusetts. Mrs. McManus and Mrs. Eddy were sisters.

Although the investigation is ongoing into the crash, it is believed that rapidly deteriorating weather was a factor.

Then less than a month later, August 16, another Beaver - this one owned by Seawind Aviation, crashed near Traitors Cove. Three people survived that crash including the pilot Steve Kamm, tour guide Sara Steffen and passenger Mindy Mayer of Tualatin, Oregon. But passenger Daniel Herron, 49, of Irvine, CA; and five other members of Mayer's family; Eric Smith, 37; Christine Smith, 36; David Mayer, 60; Alison Smith, 3; and her twin brother Trevor Smith, 3, all died.

jpg Seawind Aviation, crashed near Traitors Cove

Paul Sledzik, NTSB Transportation
Disaster Assistant, at the August 16th crash site of Seawind Aviation's Beaver near Traitors Cove.
Sledzik is from the Anchorage office.
Photo courtesy National Transportation Safety Board

By year's end, there had been no official determination for the cause of the crash, but the preliminary investigation has indicated that weather, specifically high winds, may have been a factor..

A third tourism industry tragedy occured during the summer visitor season when a passenger off one of the cruise ships, Myong S. Thayer, 59, of California, was struck and killed by one of the amphibious "duck" vehicles on the city dock on Sept. 17. Police say no charges are pending in the accident.

Two Holiday Fires

Two adults managed to escape the December 15th house fire on Tuttle Way that killed Bertolano Credito, 17; Alysha Credito, 11; Denbert Credito, 5; and Kristinenoell Credito Harris, 3. The children's mother, Lodivinia Credito was at work at the time of the fire.

Fire officials say the fire death toll was the highest in Ketchikan in at least the last 25 years.

A week before the Credito fire, the Nedzwecky family lost its Third Avenue home to a fire, but there were no injuries.

Two Other Fatal Accidents

In September, 22-year-old Brandon Hooper died after falling over a cliff near the Schoenbar Bypass.

And just before the end of the year, on Dec. 29, 24-year old Kelli Nausid died when her car collided with another vehicle on North Tongass Highway.

Jewelry Initiative Fails, But Spurs Planning Efforts

Citizens concerned with the proliferation of jewelry stores in the Downtown area gathered enough signatures to put a proposal on the October municipal ballot capping the number of such stores. The cap proposal failed by an 1,888 to 1,093 count. But the borough agreed to set up a planning liaison committee to coordinate area planning issues. Steering committees were also formed in the Downtown and elsewhere to address planning and future development.

Gravina Bridge Went Nowhere

Six months after announcing the two bridge option to Gravina was going ahead as scheduled, the Palin Administration announced in September that the preferred alternative was too expensive at nearly $400 million to proceed.

The Governor also announced that the money that had been put aside for the project, some $40 million, was going to other projects.

jpg Gravina Bridge Project

Rendering of Ketchikan's Gravina Bridge Project
(Named the Ralph M. Bartholomew Veterans Memorial Bridge by the Alaska State Legislature) As Viewed From Salmon Landing - a combined 200-foot high bridge and 120-foot high bridge crossing.
Rendering courtesy of Gravina Access Project/AKDOT

Then the federal government reminded the state that if access to Gravina isn't improved the state would have to return the nearly $50 million that it had already spent on "planning" for the bridge. The state then announced it would consider improved ferry access to Gravina but without going into details.

Meanwhile the state continued work on a $30 million road from the airport south on Gravina to the point where the bridge would reach the island, if it were ever built.

The federal government also continued a $30 million project that will extend the airport runway south some 2,500 feet to add a safety buffer for landings. The extension also involves building a tunnel for the existing airport perimeter road to go under the runway and a diversion of Government Creek to beyond the end of the runway extension.

jpg Swan Lake Project

Early work on the Swan Lake Project which is located approximately 22 air miles northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska, on Falls Creek, which drains from Swan Lake to Carroll Inlet on Revillagigedo Island
Photo by Mike Martin©

But Intertie Got Funding

The state did come through, however, when it agreed in May to put more than $46 million toward the Tyee-Swan Lake Electrical Intertie that would connect Ketchikan to the hydro facility that supplies Wrangell and Petersburg and has enough surplus power to meet all three communities needs for the foreseeable future.

The intertie had been stopped during the Murkowski Administration when the state declined to fund the second half of the project to the tune of an additional $50 million.

Operation Muskeg Storm Concludes

The Federal Government announced in mid year that the five-year-long military portion of the Annette Island road was completed and that all that remained was the state work to complete the 14 mile road from Metlakatla to the Tongass Narrows. But a snag developed in the process as the residents of Saxman voted not to sell property in the Saxman Seaport to the state for a ferry terminal. State officials are now looking at other possible sites between the Ketchikan Coast Guard base and the Mountain Point Boat Launch.

Schoenbar Finally Reopens

The long-running Ketchikan soap opera known as the Schoenbar Middle School remodling project finally came to an end in 2007. The school opened for students in January and the lawsuits over the construction were settled late in the fall with the Boro agreeing to pay the original contractor $1.7 million for work that was previously done and the contractor's insurance companies paying the borough just over $3 million. Due to a variety of errors by nearly all parties concerned, the 18-month $12 million project had turned into a four year $24 million one. The borough is now awaiting a final $6 million reimbursement from the state government for the project.

Veneer Mill Opens, Sort of

The Ward Cove mill owned by Renaissance Ketchikan began producing veneer in the fall and the borough extended the deadline for the company to make the $9 million payment for purchase of the land. The borough, somewhat controversially, also allowed the operation to continue despite the fact that Renaissance had defaulted on an agreement to make interest payments in the interim.

jpg Ward Cove veneer mill

Ward Cove mill owned by Renaissance Ketchikan began producing veneer in the fall
Photograph by Mary Kauffman

Lovely Weather for Docks

The City of Ketchikan completed its $40 million expansion of the Downtown cruise docks and its realignment of City (Casey Moran) Float in 2007. And Survey Point Holdings began work on a fourth cruise dock on the old Waterfront Storage property in Newtown that is scheduled to be in place for the summer 2008 season.

There was a storm cloud on the cruise industry horizon at the end of the year as a potential change in the interpretation of federal law was threatening to reduce the number of cruise visitors by up to a third in the future. The change would require ships traveling from Canadian ports to cut back on their time in Alaska. Local officials and others were pressing to the federal government to not institute the change.

Getting Bigger

Although Ketchikan's borough population held fairly steady at about 13,500 in 2007, the community took steps toward a major growth - at least in size. The state Local Boundary Commission approved Ketchikan's request to add nearly 4,700 square miles to its current approximately 1,750 square miles. The expansion would encompass nearly all between Ketchikan and the Canadian border including Misty Fjords and also include the islands between Annette Island and the Dixon Entrance border. The proposal does not include just under 200 square miles around Meyers Chuck which would instead be included in a proposed Wrangell borough. But the local boundary commission did put a five year time limit on Ketchikan's proposed "exemption " of Hyder from the new expanded borough which would add approximately 200 square miles to the newly bigger borough. Final decisions on the borough expansion are now up to the state Legislature.

Politics as Usual

In local political news that did not involve the "jewelry store" initiative, there was a change on the school board as board president Dave Lieben was defeated in his bid for re-election and the other incumbent Joel Jackson chose not to seek reelection. Michael Fitzgerald and Ginny Clay were elected to the board and former board president Russell Thomas was renamed to that position.

There was also change on the City Council side as two members who had both served more than 20 years left the council. Lew Williams III chose not to seek re-election and Tom Coyne was defeated at the polls. They were replaced by Dick Coose and Sam Bergeron, both former members of the Borough Assembly.

There was no change on the Borough Assembly as incumbents Glen Thompson and Mike Painter were easily reelected.

There was also an aborted attempt to recall several members of the school board who voted to fire school superintendent Harry Martin in March. The recall sponsors were unable to gather enough signatures for the recall to go forward. Martin was hired to be the principal at the Ketchikan Charter School and Bob Boyle was hired to be the new Superintendent of Schools.

The Borough also had a change at the top as borough manager Roy Eckert resigned after five years and was replaced by long time state employee Dan Bockhurst.

Crime Report

Earl Pickering was found guilty of first degree murder in January in the shooting death of his wife, Carolyn Frisby Pickering in January. He was later sentenced to 99 years in prison


The Kayhi boys and girls basketball teams easily defeated all comers in the December Clark Cochrane Invitational tourney.

The Kayhi girls softball team won the "small school" state championship in May and Ryan Borup was the top diver in the state.

jpg Bob Norton

City Councilman Bob Norton was named the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year
Photo courtesy Bob Norton


City Councilman Bob Norton was named the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year in January and Donna Smith was given a special award by the Chamber for delivering more than 1500 local babies during her decade in Ketchikan.

Longtime community leader Ken Eichner, founder of Temsco Helicopters and the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad died at age 89 in January.

Chuck Cloudy, 83, a Ketchikan native who was a prominent local attorney for more than 50 years, died in December.

And finally, former Craig resident Holly Cullen achieved fame, of sorts, as one of the three stars of "The Girls Next Door" a "reality" television show about Playboy founder Hugh Hefner's three girlfriends. Cullen - now called Holly Madison - and her two co-horts were in Ketchikan and Craig in the summer of 2007 filming an episode for the show which ran shortly before Christmas.

The Weather in 2007 (National Weather Service statistics)

High temperature: 78 Degrees on August 15

Low temperature: 11 Degrees on Dec. 3

Highest Wind: 64 mph on January 15

Windiest Day: 21.4 mph on Dec. 23

Wettest Day: 3.84 inches on October 23

Wettest Month: 32.51 inches in October

Driest Month: 3.95 inches in June

Total rainfall: 169.6 inches

Days with Precipitation: 295

Dry days: 70

Longest Dry Streak: Nov. 29 - Dec. 7 (9 days)

Longest wet streak: March 1 - 30th (30 days)

Trivia: April was the wettest on record at 23.03 inches and March at 19.43 only missed the all-time mark by four inches. July had measurable precipitation on 29 out of 31 days but only totaled slightly more than 10 inches. Wet weather on the July 4 drowned out the annual fireworks display. October was wet, but still 10 inches below the all-time drippiest October. It did have five of the seven "three inch" rainfall days in 2007.

Once again, most of Ketchikan did not have a white Christmas. Naturally, there was significant snowfall both the week before and the week after Christmas.



Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2008

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